One-Minute Book Reviews

December 4, 2008

‘Unplug the Christmas Machine’ – How to Explain to Children Why You Plan to Give Them Fewer Gifts This Holiday Season

Filed under: How to,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:00 pm
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“First, talk to your children as soon as possible about your plans to give them fewer presents.”

Do publishers have a sense of irony? You might wonder after seeing all the double-digit price tags on books about how to simplify your holidays. So here’s an alternative: Head for the library and look for Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back Into the Season (Harper, 208 pp., $12.95, paperback), a field manual for the walking wounded in the annual holiday battle that advertisers and others wage for your soul and wallet.

This book grew out of workshops that authors Jo Robinson and Jean C. Staeheli began to lead in the late 1970s, and some of its material reflects the ideas of that era. But many of its suggestions are evergreen, and the advice never gives you the sense, as Martha Stewart’s does, that the glue gun can be a lethal weapon. A typical passage in the first edition tells how to ease your family into a celebration less focused on gifts:

“First, talk to your children as soon as possible about your plans to give them fewer presents. Be clear about what they can expect. Second, explain to children who are old enough to understand why it’s important to you to minimize gifts. Finally, give your children something else to look forward to, like a special trip or family activity. Focus on what they will be getting, not on what they won’t.”

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. I really like the concepts behind this book. Thanks for sharing them.


    Comment by knightofswords — December 5, 2008 @ 11:35 am | Reply

  2. You’re very welcome, Malcolm. This book hasn’t been around long enough to be called a “classic,” but it is well-known and respected, so most libraries and many bookstores have it.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — December 5, 2008 @ 2:48 pm | Reply

  3. This book is a great idea. I have a feeling over the last few years we’ve been collectively raising expectations rather too much.

    Comment by Chris Routledge — December 5, 2008 @ 5:09 pm | Reply

  4. “Raising expectations too much”: Yes! Lately I’ve been reading reading a lot of children’s Christmas poems, and I’ve been startled by how many deal with topics such as “bad presents” or “gifts I didn’t like.”

    The presence of this topic in so many anthologies is unsettling for a number of reasons, including that the concept of being grateful for what you have seems to be getting lost in many households.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — December 5, 2008 @ 9:22 pm | Reply

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